Well, it’s been one amazing ride these past five weeks! Irma gave us a run for our money, but followed us to Naples where we were hit hard as well, including the shattering of my car’s rear window. Without power, water or Internet service and zero to “spotty” cell service, I gave up on posting to social media focusing instead on how to get a text to friends and family members relying on them to relay what was happening in the outside world while wondering what, if anything, we may have left to return to in the Keys. We stayed a week relying on the kindness of friends waiting to see when US 1 would reopen to residents, but realized it would be awhile as the devastation was indescribable. Without services, we headed to Miami to spend a few days with a new friend, the man we adopted our dog from, Bert. Scott was able to use Internet to fulfill online orders and remain in good standing with the outlets hosting his online stores before turning them off again as we loaded up and headed for home.
We couldn’t stay away from the place we love so much, even after considering a temporary move until things were back to “normal.” It was as if the islands were calling us, waiting for help, hoping friendly faces would return, so we did. Putting our decision to leave the keys for northern ground aside, we loaded the rental van, re-taped the shower curtain over my rear window, loaded up a spunky 9 year-old and two hurricane hounds and set a course for Cudjoe Key.
September 18, 2017 – US 1 had finally reopened to lower keys residents and our anticipation grew with every mile traveled. Loading up on supplies in Homestead, we chased the late afternoon sun trying to beat the curfew and a possible camp out in the van.
A wave of relief came over me as we entered the 18 mile stretch, the familiar blue barriers feeling like open outstretched arms. Then came Key Largo and the signs, “Welcome home lower keys residents, You can’t drown a conch!” brought tears to my eyes. To the sign maker’s, who ever you are, thank you!
Every mile closer to home made my adrenaline rise. We knew what we were facing as family and friends had been sending photos of our place, taking care to empty refrigerators, remove trash, open windows to allow air flow, remove debris so we could park our vehicles and so much more! Thank you Chachi, John, Ginger, Tim, Ron, Charles Fricke, Ken and Tom Fricke!
As the sky turned to dusk, we arrived at our home, the few palms left standing in a mournful state looking over their fallen friends, some hanging over power lines. The beloved mango tree, which had produced the most delicious fruit two times this spring, was leaning almost to the ground its roots half exposed, every leaf brown and brittle. The sapodilla tree in the backyard was entirely uprooted and laying across the fence, its branches entangled in the mango tree as holding one another’s leafy hands in hopes of surviving the storm.
Entering the house we were welcomed by a wave of heat and gray mud in the downstairs foyer. The smell was likened to a mix of sewage and sea grass, but we gladly climbed the stairs to our familiar space. Assessing the damage: shattered window, sagging sheet rock in the living room and sea grass debris, we quickly set-up a space in the living room in which to “camp.”
We’d purchased our own generator and brought twenty-five gallons of gas with us to power fans, the refrigerator and a lamp. The hum of this tiny machine is a sound I will never forget. The neighborhood was filled with this same music, the song of survival.